Urban Beekeeping In Vancouver
Just like wine, honey tastes different depending where it comes from. Now, urban beekeeping has allowed us to taste Vancouver neighbourhoods.
Honey’s a bit of mysterious food right? I know it comes from flowers but what the heck happens between the flower and the good part at the end when we get to eat it?
To find out, I connected with Melissa Cartwright of Meliferra Bees, an urban beekeeping expert here in Vancouver.
Ironically enough, the ancient greek root of the name Melissa means “honey-bee”.
Melissa makes premium honey from hives in Chinatown, Mount Pleasant, and Kerrisdale. Chances are, you’ve seen her bees buzzing around this summer. Maybe they’ve even collected nectar from your front yard.
When we met, she was wearing one of those awesome beekeeper get ups that look like space suits. Melissa didn’t waste any time letting me know that the bees were feeling a little temperamental that day. She had already been stung 6 times. Also, there were no extra space suits. Fortunately, I happen to love bee stings.
The flavour of honey starts in the flower.
For example, an orange blossom creates nectar with a taste unique to orange blossoms. Bees love nectar because it’s sweet, so they bring it on home to share with their buddies at the hive.
At the hive, bees fan the nectar with their wings to evaporate water and preserve the nectar into the delightful stuff we know as honey.
Bees have about a 4 mile radius they’ll cover to collect nectar for honey, so flowers in that neighborhood are the deciding factor in what your honey will taste of. Honey coming from a hive at the UBC Farm would taste different than a hive in East Van or downtown.
It goes further though… The weather and season effect the flowers. The flowers effect the nectar. The nectar makes the honey. So again, just like wine, there are a lot of finicky factors to consider when urban beekeeping.
Melissa makes 3 varieties of hyper local infused honeys. She’s got Vanilla Bean, Cardamom, or one with Lemon. I’ve been quickly making my way through a jar of a Lavender flavour she did on limited release…it’s REALLY good. Just mix it with a little seltzer, lemon and ice…makes a refreshing drink and a perfect mid-day wake up.
If you’d like to learn more about beekeeping, Melissa recommends the book Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper by C. Marina Marchese.
If you’re interested in harvesting honey in your own back yard, The Homesteaders Emporium is a great resource here in Vancouver.
Melissa’s giving a way a jar of her wonderful honey made by Vancouver bees. To enter yourself into the contest, just leave a comment below with your favourite way to use honey, then share this article on facebook or twitter.